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Burnett Ready for Dot-Com Wars

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Agency Secures Toys R Us' Online Venture, Closes In on Art.com
CHICAGO--With one "dot-com" win in its pocket and another expected shortly, Leo Burnett has shown itself prepared to take on advertising's biggest fin de sicle trend.
The agency and its Starcom Worldwide media unit recently picked up agency of record responsibilities for www.toysrus.com, the e-commerce site of retailer Toys R Us. Separately, Burnett is believed to be the leading contender for Art.com's $20 million account. For an agency once criticized for being slow to change with the times, it's a sign the importance of Internet advertising has not escaped Burnett's notice.
"As the media changes, it's obvious we have to be a part of it," said agency executive vice president and managing director Myron Lyskanycz, who has been leading Burnett's Internet charge.
Toys R Us awarded its $70 million "bricks and mortar" retail ad account to Burnett and Starcom in May, but that win did not mean the agencies were a shoo-in for the client's Internet account, Lyskanycz said.
"They did not just come to Leo Burnett and say, 'It's yours,'" he said.
The company's Internet venture has been set up as an independent subsidiary based in San Francisco, far from Toys R Us' Paramus, N.J., headquarters, and is charged with becoming "the clear leader" in the fledgling online toy retail market. Though the company did not conduct a review, officials did talk informally with other agencies, Lyskanycz said.
But Burnett impressed the company with its Internet capabilities, from a Web-savvy staff to specialty units like its Digital Garage Web design unit and Giant Step interactive subsidiary.
"They were right in line with what we needed, which makes it very easy to establish quality control and consistency across our entire marketing program," said the company's chief marketing officer, Warren Kornblum.
Billings were not disclosed, but Kornblum said spending was anticipated to be in the "tens of millions."
Lyskanycz declined comment on the Art.com review, but said the agency expected to be "an increasingly big player" in Internet advertising ventures.
"We are building much more of a capability in the Internet arena because the world has changed," he said.